CORONADO, Calif. The fighter jets are gone from the flight deck, and in their place is a gleaming basketball court surrounded by bright green bleachers — a stark contrast to the gray, 95,000-ton Navy warship that buried Usama bin Laden at sea.
Friday’s historic North Carolina-Michigan State basketball game aboard the USS Carl Vinson couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for a Navy facing deep defense cuts.
Officials plan to seize the spotlight to showcase the Navy and its awe-inspiring, multi-billion-dollar aircraft carriers to the more than 3 million viewers expected to watch the Veterans Day game on ESPN.
The country’s basketball-fan-in-chief, President Barack Obama, will be onboard for the game.
With the war in Iraq officially over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, the military is almost certain to shrink. All branches of service are feeling pressure to tout the importance of their missions and their equipment.
Navy officials say they know a basketball game will not change the budget debate, but it can’t hurt efforts to get the American public excited about their branch of service as its chiefs lobby Congress to avoid cuts that could jeopardize its future military strategies.
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